Isaiah 36

Siege and Delivery of Jerusalem

36:1
What military crisis did Hezekiah face during his reign?
In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign (701 B.C.), the Assyrians, under the leadership of King Sennacherib (the son of Sargon II), invaded Judah. The Assyrians “came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them” (Isaiah 36:1 and 2 Kings 18:13).

According to 2 Kings 18:14-16 (not recorded in Isaiah’s account), Hezekiah confessed to Sennacherib that he had done wrong in rebelling against Assyria and agreed to pay tribute to Sennacherib in an effort to deter him from doing further damage to Judah. In order to meet the heavy tribute demanded by the Assyrians, Hezekiah exhausted the silver and gold in the treasuries of his own house and the house of the Lord and even stripped the gold that overlaid the doors and doorposts of the temple.

Hezekiah’s payment of tribute did not deter the Assyrians from their determination to subjugate Judah. Sennacherib took Hezekiah’s wealth and did not keep his word. Hezekiah mistakenly trusted in treasures and treaties to see him through his present crisis rather than in the Lord.

Practical Consideration: Trouble is no respecter of persons.
Even though Hezekiah was a man who trusted in and was loyal to God, he experienced personal trouble and problems. Trouble is no respecter of persons. Trouble often comes unannounced at life’s most inopportune times. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said, “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” God can however, use troubles and crises to shape, mold and strengthen us. As someone noted, “Trouble is a divine factor in human life.”

36:2-22
What steps did Sennacherib take in an effort to intimidate Judah into submission?
Sennacherib sent three of his top officials (2 Kings 18:17) to Judah in an effort to intimidate the people into surrendering. These top officials were the “Tartan” (a word which means field marshal or commander in chief), the “Rab-saris” (a word which means chief eunuch), and the “Rabshakeh” (a word which means chief cupbearer). These officials were accompanied by a large army (Isaiah 36:2 and 2 Kings 18:17).

Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, three of Hezekiah’s officials went out to meet them (Isaiah 36:3 and 2 Kings 18:18). The three Assyrian officials, employing a masterful plan of psychological warfare, proceeded to ridicule Hezekiah’s dependence upon the Lord and said that he would find no help from the Lord or even from a political alliance with Egypt (Isaiah 36:4-10; 2 Kings 18:19-21; 2 Chronicles 32:9-11).

Judah, they said, would find no help in heaven or on earth. They suggested that Hezekiah erred in removing the high places and that they had been commissioned by God to destroy Judah (2 Kings 18:22 and 25 and 2 Chronicles 32:12). To boast about their superiority, the Assyrians offered the Judeans two thousand horses if they thought they could muster up enough men to ride them (2 Kings 18:23-24).

Rabshakeh told the assembled crowd that they were foolish to follow Hezekiah or to trust in the Lord (2 Kings 18:28-30 and 32b and see also 2 Chronicles 32:7-8). He told the crowd to not listen to Hezekiah’s rantings about trusting in the Lord but rather to peacefully surrender and enjoy the beneficent goodness of Sennacherib (Isaiah 36:15-18; 2 Kings 18:31-32; 2 Chronicles 32:18), after all, none of the gods of their defeated foes had been able to deliver their followers from the mighty Assyrian army (Isaiah 36:19-20; 2 Kings 18:33-35; 2 Chronicles 32:13-15). Hezekiah’s three officials then proceeded to report to him the message from Sennacherib (Isaiah 36:21-22 and 2 Kings 18:36-37).

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